Peace or Division?

This post is part of a devotional series based on our 2019 Bible Reading Calendar.

Sometimes we read statements in Scripture and we’re left scratching our head. We know some familiar verses in the Bible, like Luke 1:14 where the angels announce Jesus’ birth:

Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people he favors!

Or, we know verses like Matthew 5:9 in the Beatitudes:

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.

The we come to verses like Luke 12:49-53, which includes Jesus saying:

“I came to bring fire on the earth and how I wish it were already set ablaze!… Do you think that I came here to bring peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.”

At first glance, we might read these passages as a contradiction of each other. Jesus is to bring peace and calls us to be peacemakers yet later he says he does not come to bring peace but division. It seems set at odds, unless we remember the fullness of who Jesus is.

Yes, Jesus is the Savior. Through the cross, he reconciles repentant sinners to God, bringing peace between us and our Creator by wiping away the stains of our rebellion. As we take this message of grace and forgiveness into the world, there we find reconciliation among people. Even those diametrically opposed to each other by background are brought together into one eternal family through Jesus. There is peace and peacemaking.

Yet, Jesus is also the Judge (John 5:22). The Bible speaks of final judgment being as a fire (Isaiah 66, 1 Corinthians 3, 2 Peter 3, Revelation 20, to name a few places). Fire is what ultimately cleanses and purifies. While the notion of hell contains a sense of fire as punishment against sin, the fire upon the earth is the ultimate purification that cleanses. And this brings a permanent peace as sin is forever removed.

So, what about the division of which Jesus spoke, even a few verses later saying that father and son, mother and daughter, etc. would be opposed to one another? In many cultures, family and religious identity are closely related. In Jesus’ day as much as there were many Jews and Gentiles who followed him, there were many who rejected him. When one member of a family turns to Jesus and another refuses, it can cause tension. When family and religious identity are welded together, it can cause great division.

The hope, always, is for reconciliation, for peacemaking. That if one member of a family follows Jesus, others would join him or her. Yet, when that is not the case, then the one who has chosen to follow Jesus must continue to choose to follow Jesus. They must continue to show kindness and should pray for familial peace. But if one cannot have Jesus and family but must decide between Jesus or family, the choice should be Jesus.

As God the Son, the great Savior-King, the Source of life eternal, Jesus is worth it.

All Scripture quotations taken from the Christian Standard Bible.

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